Late Autumn in Chester County was punctuated by crystalline days, an errant snow and unrelenting weekly rains. Staff and hounds continued to leave the kennels three mornings a week to pursue Mr. Fox. One morning a hard frost covered the Doe Run Valley, every tree, blade of grass and fence rail, with silver. Mr. Stewart’s Cheshire Foxhounds meets every Thanksgiving morning at 11:00 at the Kennel Lawn. The “field” of riders grows to twice its size from the week before, enlarged by students home on break from college, friends and family in from out of town. Non-riding members of the community are encouraged to come out, meet the hounds and watch the hunt take off from the hill overlooking Plantation Field, home to a major Three Day Event competition. The crowd arriving to watch is so large that traffic control is warranted. Some spectators come prepared for a tailgate party.
A Visual Recap of Foxhunting in Cheshire Country, Autumn, 2011 –::– Opening Meet, Formal Hunting, Runnymede Tuesday, November 1, 2011 Formal Hunting moves to 11:00 A.M. in November from 9:00 the previous month. Riders met at St. Malachi Church to park their vehicles and hacked to the Meet at Runnymede, about a mile away, down the hill and a long driveway, along a creek ruled by a venerable Blue Heron. The Joint Masters, Huntsman and Whip, wearing Pinque for the first time this season, are joined by the Field (the riders following the hounds) on the lawn of Runnymede. Runnymede is known for its broad, open fields and sloping terrain, punctuated by fences with gates and coops, with creeks emptying to the Doe Run, and eventually to the Brandywine River. –::– Byrd Road, Webbs Woods Saturday, November 5, 2011 The Meet at Byrd Road encompasses a large woods, Webbs Woods, and is flatter than Runnymede, with many foxes. The Meet is close by the Veterinary School at the University of Pennsylvania, New Bolton. Cheshire encourages family participation and many children join their parents on the hunt
Festival in the Country The week before Fair Hill International CCI3* and 2* (October 13-16) was soggy, so much that fields were flooded and I rode strictly on the roads, foregoing hunting on Thursday because the footing was so slippery. Friday was overcast with intermittent showers as I donned my wellies and fleece and headed down to Fair Hill, Maryland to go walk the course. Between leaving the vendor tents and the far side of the course, clouds blew in with yet another rain shower; fortunately fleece is still warm and comfy even when wet. View of clouds and raindrops in the water at fence 22 for the 2* But glory be! Saturday began cold and as the morning progressed past 6 A.M., the sun rose and it turned into a perfect day spend in the country with blue sky, bright sunshine and magnificent foliage in yellows and crimson. It doesn’t get much better than that. Creature comforts The organizers of the event thoughtfully placed many, many trash barrels everywhere. You didn’t need to carry that empty drink bottle more than a few steps.
Sunday afternoon, during a break between the two star and three star show jump phase to decide the winners of the Plantation Field Three Star Event (Unionville, Pennsylvania), visitors were witness to a spectacular jump-off, of sorts, between some of this weekend’s event riders. Three years ago the organizers of the Plantation Field Three Day Event sponsored a casual puissance jumping event during the lunch break. Puissance features a wall that increases in height with elimination of riders as they fail to clear it until there is only one rider and horse combination remaining – a horse version of musical chairs. It’s popularity with the crowd got the organizers last year to entice several event riders to participate and it resulted in a strip-tease of sorts as Doug Payne gamely traded articles of clothing for the right to stay in the game. This year the Professional Riders Organization sponsored the event for the benefit of Operation Homefront, an organization which provides emergency funds for military families and wounded veterans. As the contest progressed and a wall came down, off came the boot of one rider in compensation… **** **** but as the brick wall grew higher and higher, Jenny Brannigan topped them all and retained all her accoutrement
Tuesday, September 13 2011 by Sidelines Editor
With the soggiest August on record behind us and the second week in September requiring the evacuation of Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania and other cities along the Susquehanna River because of the continuing rainfall, a window of opportunity briefly opened Monday, Labor Day, to officially kick off the start of cubbing with Mr. Stewart’s Cheshire Foxhounds (Unionville, Pennsylvania) under a cloudy, but dry, sky. Members of the Hunt parked their rigs at St. Malachi Church, an ancient chapel high on a hill overlooking the Buck and Doe Run Valleys. From there, riders hacked to the front lawn of Runnymede, a farm that includes strenuous hills and wide, open meadows.
Thursday, July 14 2011 by
Young foxes are tumbling out of the den, playing with grasshoppers, learning the ways of their neighborhood. So it goes with foxhounds who were born last year, making their debut with the pack and following their elders who mastered the intricacies of the chase in prior years. The Huntsman and Whipper-In have worked with the puppies since the day they were born, teaching them rudimentary manners
Thursday, July 07 2011 by
A pack of eight and a half couple (children, not hounds) met on the kennel lawn early mornings this past week to learn the basics of Foxhunting. Led by the Huntsman and the Whip, the pack learned basic hunting etiquette, how to avoid accidents in the field (holes, slippery roads and wire fences) and the language of the hunting horn in the classroom, improving their riding cross-country and over jumps in mounted sessions. Riding abilities and reasons for loving the sport ranged widely but the group was united in its enthusiasm. Cheshire campers are introduced to Ivan Dowling, Huntsman, and Stephanie Boyer, Whip, at the Kennels. "Aunt Wendy" ("Grandmom" to one camper) ably led the group through introduction to the staff and hounds, supported by a large contingent of volunteers from the community. Ivan Dowling, Huntsman, talked about the hounds before releasing them from the kennels onto the lawn.
The other evening the Delaware Valley Point to Point Association wrapped up its competition schedule with a dinner party, an impromptu fiddle concert and end of the season awards under the stars, which you could see until the thunderstorm arrived. Picnic on the lawn at the home of Don Cochran and Pat Branniman
Two weeks ago tonight a fire destroyed the barn housing horses trained by Boyd Martin on the ground floor and employees on the second. In the days that followed the community was numb with the aftermath, the loss of lives of horses, the injuries, the immediate need of the human survivors for a somewhere to live and something to wear. Everyone knew someone intimately who had lost something dear. Ever mindful of the irreplaceable, friends moved into action to take care of the practical. Among many others throughout the country, a “boots on the ground” fundraising effort was begun in anticipation of the Horse Trials planned for Plantation Field in Unionville this past weekend. Phone call and email solicitations for contributions to a bake sale were sent out and resulted in a table overflowing with cupcakes, snickerdoodles, cake and brownies. Priced to sell at “donation”, business was brisk and resulted in a first day total of over $1000. The second day recovery is as yet uncounted. I personally ate a brownie with peanut butter drizzle, its purchaser informing me that it was a $40 tray of brownies – worth it? Quite tasty.
Friday, May 06 2011 by
Pony racing at the local Point to Points is always a high point of my spring. I love to watch the kids before the race when they are gathered in a circle around the steward going over the rules while a sibling, parent or friend walks the pony around the paddock; I love to watch the kids get on their ponies and head off to the start behind the outriders; and mostly I love to watch them run to the finish with an intensity and competitive spirit that transcends their young age. This year at the Plumsted Races the competition was fierce and friendly.